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Target Practice: Tracking opportunities in Patriots passing game

12.31.13 at 7:00 am ET
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Targets have been compiled by the NFL since the start of the 2009 season, and while it remains a vaguely imperfect stat –€” a badly thrown ball from a quarterback can often go against the record of the receiver as opposed to the quarterback — it remains a good indication of the confidence level a passer might have in his pass catcher. Here’€™€™s a look at the target breakdown for the New England passing game for the 2013 regular season.

WR Julian Edelman: 105 catches on 151 targets
WR Danny Amendola: 54 catches on 83 targets
RB Shane Vereen: 47 catches on 69 targets
TE Rob Gronkowski: 39 catches on 66 targets
WR Aaron Dobson: 37 catches on 79 targets
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 32 catches on 69 targets
RB Brandon Bolden: 21 catches on 29 targets
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 12 catches on 19 targets
RB Stevan Ridley: 10 catches on 12 targets
WR Josh Boyce: 9 catches on 19 targets
WR Austin Collie: 6 catches on 11 targets
FB James Develin: 4 catches on 4 targets
TE Matthew Mulligan: 2 catches on 3 targets
RB LeGarrette Blount: 2 catches on 5 targets
TE Zach Sudfeld: 0 catches on 3 targets
RB Leon Washington: 0 catches on 1 target
TE/OL Nate Solder: 0 catches on 1 target
TE DJ Williams: 0 catches on 1 target

By position’€¨

Wide receiver: 243 catches on 412 targets

Running back/fullback: 84 catches on 120 targets

Tight end: 53 catches on 92 targets

Other: 0 catches on 1 target

By way of comparison, here’s a look at the target breakdown by position for the previous four seasons:

2012
Wide receiver: 230 catches on 369 targets
Tight end: 116 catches on 182 targets
Running back: 56 catches on 84 targets

2011
Wide receiver: 196 catches on 309 targets
Tight end: 169 catches on 237 targets
Running back: 37 catches on 58 targets
Other: 0 catches on 1 target

2010
Wide receiver: 177 catches on 282 targets
Tight end: 93 catches on 134 targets
Running back: 61 catches on 86 targets

2009
Wide receiver: 273 catches on 423 targets
Running back: 74 catches on 105 targets
Tight end: 43 catches on 60 targets

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Patriots sign OL R.J. Mattes, LB Taylor Reed to practice squad, release OL R.J. Dill

12.30.13 at 4:48 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots made a series of practice squad moves Monday as the team continues to address roster depth needs heading into the postseason.

Offensive lineman R.J. Mattes and linebacker Taylor Reed were signed to the practice squad. Mattes went to training camp with the Patriots this past summer before being released prior to the start of the regular season. The moves come a day after Logan Mankins and Brandon Spikes left Sunday’s game with various injuries. Both Mankins and Spikes are hobbling into the playoffs. Mankins had a walking boot at his locker on Monday while Spikes will reportedly have knee surgery as soon as the season is over.

To make space, the Patriots released OL R.J. Dill from the practice squad. The moves leaves the Patriots with seven players on the practice squad, with one vacancy left to fill. The team could release either defensive back Justin Green or safety Kanorris Davis and try to re-sign them back to the practice squad if no team picked them up on waivers.

Both Green and Davis were signed to the active 53-man roster on Saturday and active in Sunday’s regular season finale as Devin McCourty and Alfonzo Dennard were inactive.

Mattes, 23, was originally signed by New England as a rookie free agent on May 13 out of North Carolina State before being released on May 23 and re-signed on June 3. He was released again on Aug. 24. The 6-foot-6, 315-pounder, was a four-year starter at both guard and tackle and was named a second-team All-ACC as a senior in 2012.

Reed, 22, was originally signed by the Dallas Cowboys as a rookie free agent out of Southern Methodist on May 5, 2013. The 5-foot-11, 236-pounder was released by Dallas on Aug. 31 before being signed to the Cowboys practice squad on Nov. 18. He was released from the practice squad on Nov. 26. Reed started in 12 of 13 games as a senior in 2012 and led the team with 97 total tackles and earned All-Conference USA second-team recognition.

Dill, 23, was signed to the New England practice squad on Dec. 2, 2013. He originally was signed to the New England practice squad on Sept. 3, 2013, and was released on Sept. 13, 2013. The 6-foot-6, 316-pounder was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars as a rookie free agent out of Rutgers on April 28, 2013, and was released by the Jaguars on Aug. 30. He started all 13 games at right tackle for Rutgers in 2012 after transferring from Maryland following the 2011 season. Dill was a three-year starter at Maryland.

Read More: New England Patriots, nfl, R.J. Dill, R.J. Mattes

Patriots put limited number of playoff tickets on sale

12.30.13 at 3:05 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Fans hoping to see the Patriots in person on Jan. 11 will have to be quick on the draw.

Hours after locking up their 12th win of the season, earning a first-round bye in the process, the league announced its playoff pairings and the Patriots learned that they will host an AFC Divisional Playoff game on Saturday, Jan. 11 at 8:15 p.m. On Monday, the team announced a limited number of individual tickets will go on sale Monday, Jan. 6, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. exclusively through Ticketmaster.

After fulfilling orders for Patriots season ticket holders and Patriots “wait list” members, the remaining tickets will be placed on sale to the public on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. All Patriots playoff ticket orders will be processed through Ticketmaster.

Playoff tickets will not be sold at the Gillette Stadium Ticket Office. Ticket orders can be processed one of two ways, online at www.ticketmaster.com or by phone by calling 800-745-3000. Visa, an official Patriots and NFL sponsor, will be the only accepted form of payment. The Patriots are advising fans to beware of any tickets acquired through third-party vendors or non-Ticketmaster transactions. Counterfeit tickets will be rejected at Gillette Stadium.

The Patriots are the first AFC team to earn four consecutive first-round playoff byes and are just the third team in NFL history to do so, joining Dallas (1992-95) and San Francisco (1992-95). On Saturday, Jan. 11, the Patriots will host their 14th playoff game since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002, which is four more than the second-place Colts have hosted. The Patriots are 10-3 (.769) in the playoffs at Gillette Stadium.

For the first 34 years in the franchise’€™s history, the Patriots hosted just one playoff game ‘€“ a loss to the Houston Oilers in 1978. Yet, in the 20 seasons since Robert Kraft purchased the franchise in 1994, the Patriots have qualified for the playoffs 15 times, including 13 times as division champions, and have hosted a league-leading 17 playoff games. The Patriots are 14-3 in those games.

This year will mark the fifth time in franchise history that the Patriots have earned the number two seed to enter the playoffs. Historically, that home-field advantage has helped propel the Patriots through the playoffs as the team has advanced to the Super Bowl on three of those five occasions.

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Read More: New England Patriots, nfl, NFL Playoffs, Ticketmaster

Bill Belichick says Logan Mankins as tough as anyone he’s coached

12.30.13 at 1:48 pm ET
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Patriots coach Bill Belichick praised the toughness of left guard Logan Mankins, who left Sunday’s regular season finale with what appeared to be a significant ankle injury before returning to the field after missing just one series.

“I’€™ve coached a lot of tough guys. I don’€™t think there’€™s any that I would put ahead of him. Maybe some on that level, but none ahead,” Belichick said in a conference call on Monday. “Anytime Logan needs help getting off the field, you feel like it’€™s something serious. Usually he ends up just staying out there but for him to need assistance getting off the field was definitely a concerning moment. Then when [head athletic trainer] Jim Whelan came back and told me, as you mentioned, after the next series that Logan was back, I was a little bit surprised to hear that. He’€™s a tough individual, tough-minded, physically and mentally tough.”

Belichick — who suggested that it remained to be seen what kind of availability might be expected from the guard going forward — said that the trait was one that Mankins shares with other key members of the Patriots.

“I think we have a lot of that on our team but certainly he along with really all of our captains — Tom has a lot of toughness and obviously Logan and [Matthew] Slater has played all year, most of the year with the broken thumb and all that,” said Belichick. “Devin [McCourty], Rob Ninkovich, they’€™re all very physically and mentally tough guys. They’€™ve given us a lot of leadership and a lot of toughness but Logan certainly gave us a lot yesterday. It was an incredible performance.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Reports: Browns may target Josh McDaniels for head coaching vacancy

12.30.13 at 11:54 am ET
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ESPN.com is reporting that Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is expected to be on the short list of candidates (along with former Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt) for the head coaching vacancy in Cleveland, where the Browns fired Rob Chudzinski after a 4-12 record in his first and only season in charge of the team. McDaniels is currently in his second stint as a member of Bill Belichick‘s coaching staff in New England. However, the NFL Network reports that McDaniels might not accept the Browns job if the position was offered to him.

On Monday, in an interview with WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan show, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made clear his preference that McDaniels remains where he is.

“Josh is the best offensive coach I could ever imagine. He’€™s so prepared, he’€™s so confident in what he does. He figures out a way every week to get us in the best position as players to win,” said Brady. “I have so much respect for him and what he does for me, what he does for our team. He’€™s just a great coach. He’€™s got a lot of poise, got a lot of discipline. I hope he doesn’€™t go anywhere. I mean, I’€™d love for him to coach me the rest of my life. But that’€™s just the way it is. He’€™s one of my best friends, and I love having him.’€

To listen to the complete interview, click here.

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Jets owner Woody Johnson retains Rex Ryan in emotional postgame locker room

12.30.13 at 11:11 am ET
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Jets owner Woody Johnson, in the aftermath of his team’s season-ending 20-7 win over the Dolphins that yielded an 8-8 record for the season, informed members of the Jets that Rex Ryan would be retained as the team’s head coach for the 2014 season.

“I am so proud of this team,” Johnson told Jets players. “You gave it everything you had every play. You play hard for this coach. That’s why we’ve elected to keep Rex.”

Upon the announcement, players exploded in celebration with Ryan. For video of the festivities, click here.

Tom Brady on D&C: ‘We’ve definitely got a group of overachievers’

12.30.13 at 8:01 am ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show on Monday morning, a day after the Pats clinched the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs with a 34-20 victory over the Bills. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The game was played in rainy and cold conditions in Foxboro, but it didn’t slow down the home team, which closed the season with two solid wins.

“I think when you win, none of the conditions really matter much,” Brady said. “When you lose, yeah, you definitely have some games that you remember and you go, ‘God, those sure were crappy weather conditions.’ But I thought we really fought through adversity and played a tough game, played a really tough, hard-nosed football game that we needed to play. We just did such a great job in the run game, played really good on defense, great in the kicking game. That’s what we did against Baltimore, and it was really effective. To do it two weeks in a row this time of year is exactly what we needed.”

LeGarrette Blount was the game’s star, as the big running back amassed a team-record 334 all-purpose yards, including a career-high 189 yards rushing with two long touchdowns. Toward the end of the game, Blount could be seen with his arm around Brady as they had a discussion on the sideline.

“It was a very joyful moment I think for both of us,” Brady said. “He had played an incredible game. It’s really been a great season for our team to get to this point. We’ve definitely got a group of overachievers, guys that have worked really hard to come in and played whatever role they’ve been asked to play, whether that’s the receiver position or the running back position, the offensive line has been shuffled around.

“To be 12-4, we’re pretty proud of that. It’s a lot of guys that believe in one another. Certainly the way LeGarrette performed yesterday was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen, in some pretty tough conditions. It was a great effort by him. The offensive line played their hearts out. They continued to be the strength of our team. That’s what we’re going to need here down the stretch.”

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